In recent years, filmmakers have been bringing LGBTQ+ love stories to the foreground, instead of relegating them to the background of another heteronormative romance. Arriving in theaters this weekend, Love, Simon – based on Becky Abertalli's acclaimed novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – promises to be a charming and compassionate romantic comedy focusing on a gay teen coming-of-age and coming out. In the meantime, here are a few other films to watch that feature a more inclusive variation on teen romance.
When working class tomboy Mona (Natalie Press) meets magnetic and wealthy Tamsin (Emily Blunt), the teens develop a fascination for one another that soon escalates into an intense sexual attraction. Reminiscent of the obsessive bond in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, these young women cling to one another to escape the banality of their daily lives. When promises are broken, and Tamsin’s true nature is exposed, it threatens to divide them. My Summer of Love offers an authentic depiction of the complexities of female friendships and the transformative power of youthful connections.
My Summer of Love
Xavier Dolan's feature debut is a semi-autobiographical look at the volatile relationship between a mother and son. Although Hubert Minel's (Dolan) friends know he's gay, it's the one detail he can't bring himself to share with his mother. Harboring this secret is just one of many things keeping the pair at odds. Chantale (played by the brilliant Anne Dorval) is unbalanced and antagonistic in her dealings with her son, while Hubert throws self-indulgent tantrums and intentionally aims to hurt his mother. Swinging back and forth between love and hate, the duo attempts to live together without losing themselves.
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The Way He Looks
Leo (Ghilherme Lobo) is a blind high school student yearning for independence. Having always been handled carefully by overprotective parents and his childhood friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim), it's a welcome change when new student, Gabriel (Fábio Audi), arrives to shake things up. Gabriel's fervent interest in Leo's life is enticing and their burgeoning attraction is depicted with remarkable warmth. The Way He Looks is a tender and honest look at the pure innocence of first love.
In this uplifting adaptation of the underrated novel by James St. James, Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) is a fearless inspiration for outcasts of all ages and orientations. Billy's refusal to compromise who he is or to tone down his theatrical style–encouraged by his Mother (the always fabulous Bette Midler) – makes life difficult at his new school. Embracing and turning the tables on the derogatory labels placed on him by his conservative peers, Billy's defiance attracts the attention of both admirers and bullies. A strong message of inclusion and self-acceptance makes this a movie with a lot of heart.
ThelmaRaised in a strict religious household, Thelma (Eili Harboe) experiences her first taste of freedom after leaving home to attend university. Away from the watchful eye of her controlling father, her natural curiosity leads her down a path of self-discovery. While fellow classmate Anja (Kaya Wilkins) awakens her sexual desire, an uncontrollable psychic ability is awakened in her mind. Struggling against her repressed upbringing and religious guilt, Thelma must break free from her past to find faith in the power of her own mind. Thelma is a fascinating portrayal of a young woman’s sexual and spiritual awakening.
For more films about queer rites of passage and the adolescent experience, visit our spotlight "LGBTQIA+ Kids".
Emily Sears (@emily_dawn) is a freelance writer based on the East Coast. She writes film reviews and editorials for Birth.Movies.Death., as well as a monthly column on book-to-film adaptations called "Cover to Credits."